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The Business Matrix: Thursday 16 February 2012

Losses leave bitter taste at Thorntons

The struggling retailer Thorntons slumped to a half-year loss of £618,000 after a poor Christmas performance. The group's own-store sales were down by 5.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis in the 28 weeks to 7 January, as margins were hit by the rising costs of raw materials, and the company wrote off nearly £2.5m on loss-making stores.

FSA top enforcer Cole to step down

The Financial Services Authority's top enforcer Margaret Cole is to step down in March after nearly seven years at the UK watchdog where she radically altering how market abusers are pursued. Ms Cole joined the FSA in 2005 and beefed up enforcement by issuing record fines and targetting top names in the industry.

US judge rules against UK fund

The British hedge fund Pentagon Capital and its chief executive have been ordered by a US judge to pay $77m (£49m) after "intentionally and egregiously" engaging in illegal "late trading" or making mutual fund trades after the market had closed, but at stale prices. A lawyer for Pentagon, which is winding down, said the firm would appeal.

Speedy Hire's self-help pays off

The equipment rental firm Speedy Hire said its focus on self-help measures to boost profitability were paying off as it reported growth in underlying revenues of 7.6 per cent for the October to December quarter. The Merseyside-based firm remains confident of meeting its expectations for the year to 31 March.

Hogg Robinson revenues 'flat'

The corporate travel services firm Hogg Robinson said bookings, client spend and its own revenues were flat on last year in the four months to the end of January. Particularly good progress in Asia Pacific and its Spendvision divisionwas offset by a modest decline in Europe.

Renold reports strong US growth

The industrial chain manufacturer Renold said trading since 30 September continued to meet expectations, helped by strong growth in North America and Australasia. The Manchester-based firm said trading in recent weeks suggested its European division would return to double-digit underlying sales growth.

US manufacturing rose in January

US manufacturing output rose in January and a gauge of factory activity in New York state hit a one-and-a-half-year high in February, showing a solid underpinning for economic recovery. The reports added to a run of fairly upbeat data on the US economy.

Swedes bank on UK growth

Handelsbanken is planning further expansion in Britain. The Swedish bank, which posted a 12 per cent rise in annual profits to £1.2 billion yesterday, has been opening a new British branch nearly every other week, offering a more traditional face-to-face service at its 104 branches.

Europe puts lid on Danone's growth

The French food group Danone has trimmed its sales growth and margin targets for 2012, saying tough western European markets would offset strong growth in emerging markets, which now account for more than half of sales.

Morgan Crucible profits increase

Morgan Crucible, whose materials are used in medical instruments and satellite communications, has posted record annual revenues and profits – up 8 per cent to £1.1bn and 39 per cent to £142m respectively – helped by demand from China and India.

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